Today’s widening range of consumer health informatics tools — electronic resources that help patients interact with their health information — are empowering patients and their caregivers to better communicate with their doctors and manage a healthy lifestyle.

Health from home

Examples of these tools include computerized activity or fitness trackers, personal health records (PHRs), patient portals, remote office visits using video conferencing or even physician visit applications on mobile devices.

The many ways patients interact with their health care providers without ever having to leave their homes is expanding almost daily and encouraging patients to play a more active role in their health care experience.

Getting started

The many ways patients interact with their health care providers without ever having to leave their homes is expanding almost daily and encouraging patients to play a more active role in their health care experience.”

Getting started with these tools is easy. One of the most widely used tools is a patient portal. Portals allow patients and their caregivers to access electronic health records, enabling them to see their test results, communicate by email with their care team, view a current list of vaccinations, or request a refill on prescriptions. Patient portals improve communication between patients and their providers which can improve care.

The first step for the patient is to determine whether a health care provider has a patient portal and, if so, gain access to it. If a portal is not available, patients should develop their own personal health record. The American Health Information Management Association website has resources on how to select and start maintaining a PHR and links to information on how to access health records.

High-tech tools

In addition to using patient portals, patients should develop and maintain their own personal health record and ask prospective health care providers about the availability of telehealth services in their area. You can also check your mobile app store for sources to obtain medical care while on the go. Some examples of mobile visit apps include Amwell, Doctor on Demand and DocNow. Some health insurance companies may even provide reimbursement for health care obtained through mobile apps, so check with your insurance provider to find out if they offer those benefits.

Health informatics tools are without question changing health care. They help providers engage with their patients while also granting patients easy access to their health information and the tools they need to better manage their health.